‘SINGULARITY’ Explained

Music: Robert Fripp—New York, New York, New York

(After six weeks of toil I have finally finished exams, so even though schoolwork is mounting again, I have time! Yay!)

WARNING: long post. Can I excuse it on the grounds that Saturday was my blog’s one-year anniversary?

 

Miss Alexandrina asked me the other day whether SINGULARITY, the title under which I entered CAPTAIN’S PAPER/TRUMPING HEARTS/Drina’s story in PitchSlam, is a Shakespeare reference.

Here I attempt to explain the tenuous links which led to that title.

 

  1. Star-Cross’d Lovers (Shakespeare)

I studied Romeo and Juliet at GCSE, so multiple references crept into the first few drafts of Drina’s story. One passage in particular, when I was brainstorming titles last year, came back to me. Romeo meets Mercutio and Benvolio (finally) and they tease him by insinuating that the ‘important business’ that had delayed him was of a sexual nature.

The exact quote (Act II, Scene IV):

ROMEO         Why, then is my pump well-flowered.

MERCUTIO   Sure wit, follow me this jest now till thou hast worn out thy pump, that when the single sole of it is worn, the jest may remain, after the wearing solely singular.

ROMEO         O single-soled jest, solely singular for the singleness.

Note that ‘pump’ is a double entendre, as are the ‘flowers’. Beyond that, Mercutio is saying the joke is poor and no longer amusing. Romeo then invokes the low joke and I like to think he is berating Mercutio not only for the joke but for assuming he was with Rosaline (or any girl, for that matter). In the event, Romeo is planning his wedding to Juliet, has just received a hate note from Tybalt, her cousin, and is keeping his marriage secret from his best friends.

How in the world does this sordid passage relate to Drina, besides her tendency to bandy about words?

"O Garden Clogs!" - yeah, they're so wasted in the daily trip to the compost heap and back

“O Garden Clogs!” – yeah, they’re so wasted in the daily trip to the compost heap and back

First the play. Garden Clogs are one of my motifs (‘pumps’). In Drina’s very first scene they are broke-soled, but it is implied that the antagonist will salvage them. Later they reappear as a threat (pretty much a hate note), and as an icon of corrupted richness, with sexual connotations.

Like Romeo, Drina engages herself to someone she’s only recently met, and conceals it for fear of the repercussions. A major plot-point is her crushed, inebriated deal with her fiancé’s brother, and the speculation surrounding it. Assumptions being one of the two major themes, joking over something so untrue—yet, notice, undenied by Romeo—seems apt.

Regarding other Drina-Romeo parallels, Act II, Scene II is the famous balcony scene, in which Romeo begins to mature from the antisocial, melancholy Rosaline-lover. Similarly, Drina begins to mature after meeting Chas—realising the Captaincy isn’t the glory everyone made it out to be, foreshadowing how many times it will betray her over the coming months. Chas, like Juliet, is the more mature member of the pair—though Drina, like Romeo, likes at least to feel that she’s the dominant.

A young DiCaprio opposite Claire Danes in the 1996 Baz Luhrmann adaptation.

A young DiCaprio opposite Claire Danes in the 1996 Baz Luhrmann adaptation.

Drina and Chas’s families are old friends; not feuding factions. However, with Chas’s mother’s dementia and Drina’s mother’s problems (I’m beginning to think PTSD), there’ll never be a good time for the young ones to prioritise elsewhere.

Then there’s the famous line about a rose of any other name still having the essence of a rose. This exemplifies Drina’s dilemma: she feels inextricably bound to her mother’s history and fate, which I believe come under ‘name’. The definition of a Montague is one who fights with Capulet, and that of Capulet fights with Montague. Juliet denies that the ‘children’s teeth be set on edge because their fathers have eaten sour grapes (Jeremiah), opening up the debate that our forefathers are not responsible for our actions as we are not responsible for theirs—we have no obligation to repeat our ancestors’ successes (or failures). ‘Independent’ Drina likes this idea, but struggles to free herself of liability to her mother’s state; like many children in such home environments, she half-believes the instability is her fault, whether directly or indirectly.

Anyway, the cyclic nature of generation: good or bad? #2 suggests another approach thereto.

 

2.   The Singularity of Life (Shakespeare)

Is it not the singularity of life that terrifies us? Is not the decisive difference between comedy and tragedy that tragedy denies us another chance? Shakespeare over and over demonstrates life’s singularity — the irrevocability of our decisions, hasty and even mad though they be. How solemn and huge and deeply pathetic our life does loom in its once-and doneness, how inexorably linear, even though our rotating, revolving planet offers us the cycles of the day and of the year to suggest that existence is intrinsically cyclical, a playful spin, and that there will always be, tomorrow morning or the next, another chance.” ― John Updike, Self-Consciousness

What can I add? Tragedy and comedy are two fundamental layers of this life—intermixing the two is allegedly a ‘British’ habit. That’s one of the things Shakespeare does best: in King Lear, one daughter refusing to admit her father’s ego leads to half a dozen bodies on the floor. I hesitate to use the word ‘comedic’, but there is something acutely disturbing about the boundary between life and death: it is not nearly so solid and straight as we like to think. Perhaps amusement is my coping mechanism when it comes to such realisations.

Drina’s demise begins with her best friend insinuating that perhaps she’s just as arrogant as gossip tells. From there, an arrogance complex develops into distrust and withdrawal, prompting Drina into a series of progressively less wise decisions. One parallel relates her mother’s similar fall from glory—through an accident, it is worth saying, coupled with her inability to accept the singularity of life—though in fact it is Drina who gets the second chance; there’s something satisfyingly sacrificial about the climax, if I say so myself.

Anyway, unlike a Shakespearian tragedy, Drina gets another chance, flinging away the ‘solely singular’ Garden Clogs. There’s a reason it begins with Chopin and ends with Mendelssohn.

 

3.   Infinite Compression to Infinitesimal Volume

In terms of physics, the idea of an infinitely dense, infinitely voluminous point excites me. Lots of people believe black holes are some kind of portal to oblivion. A singularity is a point; sometimes it’s described as a ring. Get this: gravity deforms space-time to prevent ANYTHING from escaping. (Also, singular matrix in mathematics is an arrangement of terms with no inverse. That basically means it’s difficult to manipulate.) Contrary to #2, this singularity is infinite.

so beautiful

so beautiful

Drina is fundamentally self-interested, so you could be forgiven for thinking Drina is the singularity, the dense point at the centre of everything—gosh, Drina herself thinks so! She believes her success will attract her mother’s love.

Midway the set-up is flipped. Realising she’s just another galactic object, Drina alters her trajectory to accelerate her travel towards the black hole that is her mother’s ruination.

Warping space-time

Warping space-time

There’s something so cool about an inevitable path of fate, and a horizon only crossed in one direction. So, singularities warp space-time and quantities become physically infinite, they are weighty, powerful and at the pinnacle of destructive efficiency; ambitious physicist Drina, in the race for power, would definitely aspire such qualities—and definitely fall short of her aspirations.

 

 

4.   Individuality versus Community

A singular is a distinguishing quality or a peculiarity. Drina’s is that she has the capacity to become School Captain, and nobody else has that. In fact, that’s all she has that can possibly win her mother’s affections. But it also ignites the conflict between individuality and community, which composes the second major theme—not just in terms of whether to please oneself or those for whom one has responsibility, or grappling with standing out from the mob (or not!), but reliance on a significant other.

Drina’s self-esteem is dependent upon fulfilling her mother’s aspirations. The first act charts the drift and unvoiced betrayal of Drina and her best friend. While fearful of placing her welfare in the hands of another, whom she cannot control, Drina gradually surrenders to romantic love. Everyone might fancy her superwoman (including herself, at the beginning), but by the end she realises she can’t survive without other people—her power is not intrinsic, but channelled through those with whom she associates.

 

5.   Singularity and Suffering (Austen)

Singularity often makes the worst part of our suffering, as it always does of our conduct.’—Persuasion, Jane Austen. So that is our crudeness, single-mindedness, egotism, independence, vanity, conceit, ambition, obstinacy and power, our cyclic, infinite perception of life, both our overestimation and underestimation of our own significance. Maybe she’s even talking about singleness; her very voice seems to exalt the kind of community Immanuel Kant called the ‘Kingdom of Ends’ (I can’t think of another way to describe it). Austen ridicules society and abhors human selfishness, but there’s something undeniably unifying about reading her work.

You can almost breathe this guy's ego. (Oh, it's Anthony Head as Sir Walter Elliot, to whom the Persuasion quote applies.)

You can almost breathe this guy’s ego.
(Oh, it’s Anthony Head as Sir Walter Elliot, to whom the Persuasion quote applies.)

Anyhow, I like to think Austen’s equating singularity to suffering, and blaming both upon our conduct, but there are many many interpretations.

 

BONUS: ‘trick of singularity’, the Twelfth Night quote Alex was thinking of originally, is equally pertinent; when I first plotted the story, back in 2011, the tenor-changing plot-points matched the thirteen tricks of a bridge hand, and one of them I named ‘singularity’ (as discussed in #4). Sparknotes tells me ‘singularity’ in this quote means ‘free and independent’.

Hey. THE TRICK OF SINGULARITY. That might even work…

 

I may just have written an analysis of my own novel’s alternative title, and for that I very genuinely apologise! To make up for it, I’ve written another post for today. I promise it’s short!

 

 

 

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MB Character-Typing: Drina Connelly

(If you aren’t remotely acquainted with either the story or the character, or know little of MBTI, this post will probably not be of interest to you. If so, I hope you like the pictures instead *wink*)

Drina daydreaming (taken on Sims 3 a while ago. For the record, her hair isn't supposed to be red, but due to graphics difficulties I can't correct it)

Drina daydreaming (taken on Sims 3 a while ago. For the record, her hair isn’t supposed to be red, but due to graphics difficulties I can’t correct it)

In typing all my characters, which I did on the second edit of my latest manuscript, the most troublesome has been Drina Connelly. This, alongside the fact that she is my main character, causes me a little worry, but I comfort myself with the knowledge that many people are cast regularly in several different Myers-Briggs types.

At first, because I modelled her on myself, as I do originally with many of my MCs, I thought she was an INFJ (Introvert-iNtuition-Feeling-Judging). Then I started to evaluate her journey more thoroughly, and realised that over the course of the story she goes from pure rational to accepting her romantic side. She’s not an F at all. She makes most of her decisions based on logic—and gets herself tied in knots because she sees every side of the situation. And though she works for others’ feelings, is that a result of true compassion, or her desire to make herself appear worthy of the distinction she craves?

So, I thought, she’s an INTJ (Introvert-iNtuition-Thinking-Judging). And that made more sense.

Calculating Drina

Calculating Drina

I took a few more tests, and she came out as an ISTJ/INTJ, where the S and the N conflicted at fifty percent each. It wasn’t a very accurate test, to be fair, but I kept her as an N because I see her as easily able to perceive the bigger picture. Another reader might think differently; I don’t know.

(In addition, J being the one letter that didn’t fluctuate, my explanation is that Drina hates matters to be up-in-the-air. She’d rather a quick resolution, even if it were an unfavourable one. She has difficulty in adapting to new situations. Besides, I haven’t yet come across a Perceiving-type who’s been recommended as a leader, so Drina will just have to remain a J.)

I did a bit of research on INTJs, and liked what I found. In particular a description of how they react under stress made me giggle. I quote:

‘INTJs are used to living in their minds, mostly disregarding their physical and emotional needs. Therefore, love and romantic relationships can take them by surprise and the intensity of their own emotions usually represent the main factor that throws them in distress. They may feel out of control, restless and tormented…managing to isolate themselves not only from the outer world, but also from their emotional and physical self. They become misunderstood loners, cryptic and enigmatic to the rest of the world.’

 

Flattered Drina

Flattered Drina(!)

If you knew Drina, you’d be giggling with me. This is exactly what happens to her: she falls in love, can’t deal with what it’d cost her ‘self-control’ if she gave in, which she can’t help doing, and gets in a right tizz about it all. ‘Enigmatic’ is a word mentioned in relation to her in the actual story, coincidentally.

But after a while I began to doubt my verdict. Her love interest came up as all sorts of things in different tests, but the one recurring type was INFJ. And I thought, so he’s like me, and she’s almost like me… It wasn’t right. Maybe it had the potential to work, but I don’t like to be discriminative, and to have two of my most important characters to be virtually the same really didn’t flatter my characterisation.

Besides that, Drina is supposed to be a leader. This is something that made me baulk, when I first realised it, because I didn’t give her any friends! She was, in her own words, a ‘hopeless introvert’ most unfit to expect to become Head Girl. It was a ludicrous idea, and yet that expectation is just about the entire plot. Well, obviously I had to do something about that.

So I went back to my lists. (Ironically, though I’d had worse trouble with the love interest, I left him as INFJ, and assumed my MC’s type was awry.) And then I did her an Enneagram test.

She came out as a Type Three, the Motivator (or Performer on some sites). Threes’ basic need and focus of attention is to achieve and get results. To others and to themselves they promote an image of success, whether it is accurate or not, and they fear failure. They are competent and informed, and desire to be seen as such, and to compare positively with others around them. Efficiency is of the utmost importance. They also have difficulties with arrogance.

Drina all over. And, as another coincidence, the issue of success and failure is one of the primary themes of my novel. But it came as a surprise to me to find a table laying Enneagrams side by side with the MBTI types with which they’re commonly associated. Well, that wasn’t a surprise in itself, but what I found in the Type Three row threw me off balance.

Drina: decisions, decisions... But maybe we're onto something...

Drina: decisions, decisions… But maybe we’re onto something…

The Performer did not correspond with INTJ, or even INFJ. No; the suggestions were ENTJ and ENTP. Well! I thought. I know there are exceptions—I’m an INFJ types Three, Five and Nine myself, and those don’t even go together very well!—but if Extroversion is so strongly recommended, maybe I’m wrong again…

And I’m truly grateful for all this to-do, because I’m more satisfied with my present ‘conclusion’ than with any typing exercise I’ve done for any of my characters. Drina is an ENTJ (Extravert-iNtuition-Thinking-Judging).

Shocked Drina

Shocked Drina

According to one of my favourite type-grids given to me by my mother (I don’t know the source):

ENTJs [are] Frank, decisive leaders in activities…Good in anything that requires reasoning and intelligent talk, such as public speaking. Are usually well informed and enjoy adding to their fund of knowledge.’

And upon research, I found the most wonderful website, called ENTJ Personality.info, which has provided for me comprehensive descriptions of how ENTJs get on with the other types. And, oh! my goodness! They’re all exactly as I’d imagined—and exactly as I’d written, moreover. Depend upon it, there’ll be another post about Drina’s inter-type relationships.

But why in the world did I think she was an Introvert? There’s a simple explanation, for which we go back to the whole stress thing. At the bottom of the list of pages I’ve used most extensively in my research, is a link, and at the bottom of the page in that link there is a single bullet point: ‘[When under stress, ENTJs…] May withdraw, feel hurt, trapped and become overly emotional’. And here I lay all my justification.

We do not see Drina, at any time during the novel, in the social environment which she feels is natural. At the beginning she has already been deserted by her dearest friends, and has been thrust into the process of withdrawal without our getting a chance to see her in the comfortable zone to which she had been accustomed since she first found her confidence at boarding school.

When I did those prior tests for her, of course I wouldn’t describe her as ‘sociable’! She didn’t have any friends—and that’s an essential plot-point (and one I struggle with for its exclusion of dialogue!). To get to her current place of prestige, however, she must’ve been more sociable than I may have implied.

But this shows me a flaw I must remedy. In my next edit, I resolve to make it clear that Drina is operating under circumstances which she feels to be unnatural.

And I can’t convey how useful it’s been to have taken this journey to discover her type! I would never rely upon a test such as this, with all its imperfections, but perhaps the trouble I’ve had suggests she’s a more rounded character than I’d hoped. Or else the conclusion I have reached has reassured me that my relationships are realistic, and helped me to solidify my characterisation.

Drina thanking me (I'm in the sky, of course) for typing her.

Drina thanking me (I’m in the sky, of course) for typing her.

And you? Does anyone else type their characters? And like what they find…?

Bibliography

Myers-Briggs types under stress: http://pstypes.blogspot.com/2010/01/myers-briggs-types-under-stress.html

An amusing story/description of an Enneagram Type Three: http://www.breakoutofthebox.com/starclm.htm

A PDF about the simple needs of Enneagram types: http://www.breakoutofthebox.com/EnneagramTheorySummarized.pdf

Enneagrams and MBTI: http://www.breakoutofthebox.com/flauttrichards.htm

http://www.entjpersonality.info/

http://www.entjpersonality.info/2010/07/entj-under-stress.html

And my own introductory post to MBTI, in case you need a reminder of what the letters mean: https://lillianmwoodall.wordpress.com/2013/06/21/an-introduction-to-mbti/